Evaluating Your Sources

Evaluate your sources to determine whether a resource (book, article, or film) is relevant to your research.

  1. What is it about?  Read the title and the abstract (a summary of the article) or introduction to know if an article is really related to the topic you're researching.
  2. What is the subject area focus? Look at the subject field or the title of the book/article or the journal title to determine the subject area. For example, if you are researching global warming activism for a political science class, an article on global warming from a chemistry journal will be too technical and not focused on political issues.
  3. Are you looking for recent information? The publication date or copyright is very important for certain fields, such as medical and scientific research.
  4. Is it a book or an article? Some results lists describe the item, or you can tell from the citation. Often your professor requires that you use a specific format, like peer reviewed journal articles.
  5. Is it scholarly? If you are required to use only scholarly sources, you will evaluate whether the item is scholarly or not. For books, look at the publisher. Is it a University press or other scholarly press? For articles, look into the journal (not the article).
  6. What type of article is it? Not every article in a scholarly journal will be appropriate for your research. Peer reviewed journals contain book reviews, editorials, and interviews. Read the abstract or introduction to clarify what the article is about. When in doubt, look at your assignment instructions and/or ask your instructor.
  7. If it is a research study, what type is it? Some courses that require a specific type of research; quantitative, qualitative, experimental, systematic review. The abstract usually identifies the type of study. Check for a Methods section which describes the research.